PhD Handbook

Our innovative PhD in German Studies is designed so that students can complete their coursework and their dissertation in four years. The idea behind this shortening of time-to-degree is to invite applicants who may want to pursue careers in government, business, and the non-profit sector, in addition to applicants interested in an academic career. In Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and many other European countries, it is a strongly held conviction that a doctorate demonstrates to potential employers intellectual independence, superior research and writing skills, the perseverance and ingenuity to complete an original piece of scholarship, and deep familiarity with a different culture. We believe that these qualities are equally valuable in the 21st-century American economy, and indeed in the global marketplace.  We also believe that a German Studies PhD that includes experiences such as graduate-level internships can enhance the interdisciplinary preparation of students who wish to pursue a career in academia.

The shortened time-to-degree of our PhD program will not compromise on academic rigor. To this end, our program provides intensive and personalized mentoring, directed reading advice, and clinics devoted to dissertation- and conference-paper writing, digital and archival research, oral presentation, and interview preparation. Our PhD strongly emphasizes interdisciplinary work within a secondary concentration area of your choice, and includes one year spent abroad at our partner universities of Göttingen and Regensburg or at other leading institutions in the German-speaking world. A wide range of graduate-level course offerings is designed to ensure content coverage and to move research projects into publishable scholarship.  Our expanded graduate faculty includes scholars in disciplines such as political science, comparative literature, Jewish Studies, business, and library science. 

In addition to offering students graduate-level internships with local, national, and international businesses and cultural institutions, our program enables students to work with on-campus resources such as CU’s Colorado European Union Center of Excellence (CEUCE) and to participate in our international biannual “Conversations in the Mountains” symposium.  The University of Colorado Max Kade German Room, housed in our department, offers a variety of academic events and visiting lectures. We hope you’ll become involved in these and other academic opportunities while in our program, and we also encourage you to apply for the many scholarships and grants our department and campus sponsor. 

This handbook will guide you through program requirements, timelines, and related policies and procedures.  Our Graduate Associate Chair and Graduate Program Assistant will be happy to assist you with any questions, as will your faculty mentor.

If you are a prospective student interested in our graduate programs in German Studies, please don’t hesitate to contact us for more information about our MA, dual German Studies MA/MBA, or PhD.  We’ll be delighted to speak with you about our programs. 

This Handbook is divided into five sections:

  1. Coursework for the German Studies PhD
  2. Timeline for the German Studies PhD
  3. Comprehensive PhD Examination and the Dissertation
  4. Graduate Program Administration: The Graduate Program Assistant, Graduate Associate Chair, and Faculty Mentor
  5. Index


Section 1: Coursework for the German Studies PhD

Required Coursework

Recommended Coursework

General Coursework Policies


Required Coursework

The PhD program requires 30 hours of coursework at the 5000-level or above.  If you have a completed MA degree, you may be able to apply up to 21 hours towards this requirement (see Transfer Credit).  Thesis hours do not count toward the required 30 hours, and cannot be used as transfer credit. Click here for a listing of all German graduate level courses. You can also access course listings for each semester through MyCUInfo or the GSLL webpage.

To ensure that you obtain advanced knowledge of the German Studies field, research methodology, and teaching pedagogy, the following courses are required of all German PhD students:

1. GRMN 5010: Theory and Practice of German Studies:  This course provides a graduate-level introduction to German Studies, with emphasis on research methodology, theoretical approaches, coverage of major currents in German intellectual and literary history from 1750 to the present, and exposure to fields interrelated with German Studies. The course will also introduce you to work with electronic databases and archives, search strategies, and online publication. GRMN 5010 is typically offered in the spring.

2. GRMN 5020: Applied Linguistics and Foreign Language Teaching:  This course surveys foreign language teaching methods and second language acquisition research, and provides a knowledge of aspects of German linguistics that are important for teaching German. GRMN 5020 is typically offered in the fall.

3. GRMN 7010: Writing Colloquium: This intensive writing workshop builds on skills learned in GRMN 5010.  Its goals are to assist you with the preparation of your qualifying examination paper, to equip you with the skills needed to transform seminar papers into publishable work, and to enable you to look ahead to the writing of the dissertation. The Writing Colloquium will also include sessions on dissertation writing, grant writing, professional organizations, career planning, and on writing a cv and job letter.  GRMN 7010 should be taken during the fall semester of the first comprehensive exam, and may not be satisfied through transfer credit.

4. One course with significant pre-1900 content: To ensure that you have graduate-level knowledge of German intellectual and literary history from 1750 to the present, you will take at least one course that focuses on pre-twentieth-century content. 

5. Secondary concentration:  As a German Studies PhD student, you will develop an interdisciplinary area of concentration.  This secondary field will consist of at least 6 credit hours.  You will design this concentration in close consultation with your faculty mentor and comprehensive examination and dissertation advisor, and with the approval of the graduate associate chair.  Some examples of interdisciplinary concentrations might include (but are not limited to):  critical thought, political science, philosophy, history, comparative literature, gender studies, film studies, Russian studies, Jewish studies, women’s studies, geography, environmental studies, economics, international affairs.

6. Foreign language requirement: In addition to demonstrating a high level of proficiency in German, you must demonstrate moderate proficiency in an additional foreign language.  You can do this by fulfilling one of the following requirements either before or after enrolling at CU-Boulder:

  • Completing a fourth-semester (second-semester sophomore) college language course with a grade of “pass”;
  • Completing a proficiency exam administered at CU; or
  • Presenting other evidence of moderate proficiency to the Graduate Associate Chair.

Students should consult with the Graduate Associate Chair at the beginning of their first semester to discuss procedures. This requirement must be fulfilled before or during the semester in which the student advances to candidacy.

7. Academic preparation: If you have gaps in your academic preparation, the department may require you to take additional courses.  


Recommended Coursework

1. Internships:  We strongly encourage you to complete at least one internship during your doctoral studies.  Three hours of internship credit can count toward the 30 required hours of coursework for the PhD.  Our graduate students have completed internships with businesses, non-profit agencies, and schools, and at locations including Colorado, Germany, and Washington, DC.  Internship offerings vary by semester.  To enroll in a graduate internship, please see the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies.

2. Graduate exchange opportunities: We recommend that you spend one academic year abroad during your doctoral studies, on either a CU graduate exchange or an exchange funded by an agency such as the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) or the Fulbright Commission.  For more information concerning DAAD, Fulbright, and other grants, please see our scholarships and grants page. 

In partnership with CU’s Office of International Education, our department offers funded graduate exchanges at the University of Göttingen and the University of Regensburg.  These exchanges offer matriculation at the host institution for one academic year (10 months), plus a monthly stipend for living expenses.  One position is offered per year at each institution.  To qualify for an exchange, you must demonstrate fluency in German and evidence of superior academic work. 

If you are interested in either program, you should notify the Graduate Associate Chair by February 1 for study abroad the following academic year and formally apply by February 15.  You can obtain application materials and further information about these study abroad programs from the Office of International Education, (303) 492-7741;

3. Independent study (GRMN 7900):  To ensure that you develop a coherent focus for your comprehensive examinations and dissertation, or to fill in gaps in your academic preparation, you may elect to pursue independent study while in our program.  We will allow you to take a maximum of two independent studies (six credits total) during your coursework; if you wish to take more than two independent studies, you must have the approval of the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies.

To enroll in an independent study, fill out an Independent Study Contract form in consultation with the faculty member sponsoring your independent study.  On the form, you and your faculty sponsor will specify the course of study and the method by which he or she will evaluate your work. After the department chair approves the contract, a staff member will enroll you in the course. If you wish to take an independent study as part of your secondary concentration, you should work with that department and with the GSLL Graduate Associate Chair to fill out the contract and register for the course.

4. Graduate Certificate Programs: We also encourage you to consider completing a graduate certificate program at CU.  GSLL offers a Critical Theory Graduate Certificate.  Other graduate certificates include the Women’s Studies Graduate Certificate Program and the Comparative Ethnic Studies Certificate.

General Coursework Policies

1. Good standing: To remain eligible for teaching assistantships and departmental fellowships, you must maintain good standing as a graduate student in our program.  You are in good standing if you fulfill all of the following:

  • Are enrolled in a full-time program of graduate study. (Full-time is defined as taking 5 hours of graduate-level credit, or 8 hours of combined graduate/undergraduate credit, or any number of dissertation hours prior to passing the comprehensive exam.  After passing the comprehensive exam, you must be enrolled in a minimum of 5 dissertation hours.)
  • Obtain grades of B- and above in graduate courses and have an overall B (3.0) average in graduate courses. Courses in which grades below B- are received will not be accepted toward doctoral program credit-hour or content requirements. 
  • Comply with the policy on grades of incomplete.
  • Comply with the timeline for the German PhD degree.

2. Letter grades and pass/fail: All coursework applied toward the PhD must be taken for a letter grade, except for courses taken to fulfill the foreign language requirement, which may be taken pass/fail.   In all other courses, you must receive a grade of B- or better, for a cumulative grade-point average of B (3.0).

3. Transfer credit:  Transfer credit from accredited institutions may be accepted by CU-Boulder after approval by the Graduate Associate Chair. Transfer credit is defined as any credit earned at another accredited institution, credits earned on another campus of the CU system, or credits earned as a non-degree student within the CU system. PhD students are allowed a maximum of 21 hours of transfer credit.  Thesis hours may not be transferred. All courses accepted for transfer credit must be graduate-level courses and must have a grade of B or above.  Coursework completed more than five years prior to acceptance to the PhD program will be evaluated by the department with regard to current relevance and applicability to the degree requirements.  Credit may not be transferred until you have completed at least six credits of CU graduate-level coursework as a degree-seeking student on the CU Boulder campus with a 3.0 GPA. See the Graduate Program Assistant for transfer credit forms.

4. Policy on grades of “Incomplete”:  A grade of incomplete (IF) is granted when, due to circumstances beyond your control (illness, military service, hardship or death in the family), you are unable to complete the requirements of a course or courses in the semester for which you are registered. Incompletes must be completed before the beginning of the following semester.  An Incomplete Contract must be filled out and signed by both you and the instructor, and will specify the work to be completed.  The final grade (earned by completing the course requirements) does not result in the deletion of the "I" from the transcript. 


Section 2: Timeline for the German Studies PhD

Your year-by-year course of study, and the length of time it will take to complete the degree, will depend on whether you are entering our PhD program with a BA or with an MA, and, if the latter, how many credits from your MA are accepted.  The time-to-degree will and year-by-year plan will also depend on whether you enroll in study abroad.  Before your first semester, you should consult with the Graduate Associate Chair regarding your plan of study and your fall course schedule.

Suggested timeline for students entering the PhD program with a BA

Suggested timeline for students entering the PhD program with an MA


Section 3: Comprehensive PhD Examination and the Dissertation

Comprehensive PhD Examination

Dissertation Committee


Comprehensive PhD Examination

1. General information:  Your comprehensive exam will test your knowledge in areas of specialization appropriate for your anticipated dissertation topic.  The exam will take place in the second or third year, depending on whether you are entering with a BA or MA and, if the latter, how many coursework credits have been applied from the MA. (See timelines above).  You will take your exam early in the spring semester. The exam is based on a reading list that you assemble in close consultation with the members of your committee.  It consists of a take-home written exam followed by a two-hour-long oral examination that concentrates on the written exam, but may also address texts and topics on your reading list that are not covered in the written exam.  (Note:  your committee chair and two additional committee members will submit questions for your written comprehensive review.  All of your committee members will participate in your comprehensive exam defense.)  See "Dissertation Committee" section below for committee composition.

2. Reading list: You will design your reading list for the comprehensive exam in close consultation with your advisor and your dissertation committee.  Your committee must approve the list.  The reading list should include a body of work roughly equivalent to at least thirty book-length works, and it should include a significant amount of material related to your secondary concentration. You will also write a 3-4-page abstract describing the coherence of the list and articulating a research goal related to the list. 

3. Exam format: You will be given three groups of two or three questions each, and you will choose one question from each group. Your responses should be about 10 double-spaced pages each.  The exam will be e-mailed to you by the Graduate Program Assistant or your committee chair by 2:00 pm on Friday.  You should return your responses to the Graduate Program Assistant by 2:00 PM the following Friday.  You can consult any materials you wish while writing your exam.

4. Qualifying exam paper and dissertation abstract: In the fall of the academic year that you take your exam, you will also write a dissertation abstract and an article-length paper related to your dissertation topic. This paper can be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal and used as the basis for a dissertation chapter. To assist you with the preparation of the dissertation abstract and exam paper, you will complete the Writing Colloquium (GRMN 7010) in the fall semester before you take your exams. Preparation of the qualifying exam paper will be a main focus of the Writing Colloquium. The Writing Colloquium will also include sessions on dissertation writing, grant writing, professional organizations, career planning, and on writing a cv and job letter.

Dissertation Committee

After successful completion of the comprehensive examinations, you will form a dissertation committee and prepare a dissertation prospectus. 

  1. Dissertation advisor: It is permissible for the dissertation advisor to be different from the comprehensive examination advisor and different from the MA thesis advisor. 
  2. Committee composition: The committee is formed in consultation with the Graduate Associate Chair and the dissertation advisor.  The committee is comprised of the committee chair and four other graduate faculty members. The chair must have a regular Graduate Faculty appointment in the German Program.  One committee member must come from outside your home department (GSLL). A member of GSLL’s Russian Program may count as the outside committee member with the approval of the Graduate Associate Chair and the Graduate School.  The other committee members must have regular or special Graduate Faculty appointments.  (In general, all CU tenure-track faculty have regular appointments, and some instructors and affiliated faculty members have special appointments.  See the Graduate Program Assistant for more information.)   The majority of the committee must be members of the German Program faculty.  With permission of the Graduate Associate Chair, a faculty member from another university who has special expertise in the student’s dissertation topic may also be a member of the committee.  Permission to include such a member must also be obtained by petitioning the Graduate School. (See the Graduate Program Assistant for assistance.)  Once finalized, the names of the dissertation committee’s members are submitted for approval to the Graduate Associate Chair.   After the Graduate Associate Chair approves the committee, the student should submit the names of committee members to the Graduate Program Assistant.  The dissertation committee should be finalized no later than the end of the fifth week of the semester following the successful completion of the comprehensive examination.


1. General information: You will formally begin to write your dissertation after you have successfully completed your comprehensive exam.  You should work closely with your dissertation advisor and committee members as you are writing your dissertation. In particular, you are advised to submit draft copies of each chapter to all members of your committee.

You will submit a final draft of your dissertation to your committee members at least three weeks before your defense. See the Graduate School website for dissertation specifications.

2. Dissertation hours: You must register for a total of 30 dissertation hours.  You may not register for more than 10 dissertation credit hours in any one semester.  No more than 10 credit hours taken prior to the semester in which the comprehensive exam is passed may be counted toward the 30 dissertation hours required for the degree.  You must be enrolled in a minimum of 5 dissertation hours during the semester in which you defend your dissertation (including summer session, if the defense is held over the summer).  To register for dissertation hours, e-mail the Graduate Program Assistant the number of hours you would like to register for, and the name of your dissertation advisor.

3. Continuous registration requirement:  You are required to register continuously for a minimum of five dissertation hours in the fall and spring semesters of each year, beginning with the semester following the passing of the comprehensive exam and extending through the semester in which you successfully defend your dissertation.

A student not required to maintain full-time status and not using campus facilities may claim off-campus status.  In such cases, registration for three rather than the minimum of five dissertation credit hours is allowed. Off-campus status (3 credits of dissertation hours) is considered part-time.  All University considerations for part-time status apply.

A student who fails to register continuously for dissertation credit hours after passing the comprehensive exam must retake and pass the exam, and validate any coursework more than five years old, to regain status as a student in good standing with the graduate school.  At its discretion, the department may petition the Dean of the Graduate School for a time limit for completion of all degree requirements of up to one year after retaking of the comprehensive exam.  The department must petition the Dean of the Graduate School to waive the requirement to retake the comprehensive exam.

4. Graduation deadlines: Students will begin to submit paperwork for graduation the semester they pass their comprehensive exam. See the Graduate School Deadlines for PhD students.

  • The Application for Admission to Candidacy is due to the Graduate Program Assistant four weeks before comprehensive examinations. The Graduate Program Assistant will complete the departmental section of the form and obtain signatures from the Graduate Advisor and Departmental Representative.   He or she will then submit the form to the Graduate School two weeks before the comprehensive examinations.
  • To graduate, you must apply online through MyCUinfo. (Click on student tab, Academic Resources, “apply for graduation”).  
  • The Graduate Program Assistant will submit the PhD Exam Report form to the Graduate School at least two weeks prior to your PhD dissertation defense to receive approval of your committee. The dissertation defense leaflet must also be submitted to the Graduate School with the PhD exam report.  Submit two copies of the leaflet to the Graduate Program Assistant at least two weeks before your defense (see Doctoral Graduation Information for the leaflet form).  The second copy of your leaflet will be posted in the department. 
  • You should e-mail your name, our department name (Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures), and your dissertation title to the Graduate School (, copying the Graduate Program Assistant. The title will be included on the CU commencement program and on your transcript. 
  • Check the “Deadlines for Doctoral Degree Candidates” on the Graduate School website for dissertation defense deadlines.
  • Students should submit a copy of the signature page available to the Graduate Program Assistant at least two weeks before their defense (see dissertation specifications).  After the defense, the student’s dissertation advisor will submit the signature page, along with the exam report to the Program Assistant for submission to the Graduate School. Your dissertation must be electronically submitted by the deadline.  It is recommended that the student have an advisor in the Graduate School check their thesis before submitting it electronically.

If you are unable to meet the spring graduation deadlines, you have the option of summer graduation.  If you successfully defend your dissertation before summer session A begins (typically at the beginning of June), you will not have to register for summer courses and should submit graduation paperwork and your dissertation using the summer graduation deadlines.  (Note: You should expect to defend your dissertation before the spring semester ends, as many faculty are not available for a dissertation defense once classes have ended.)  Summer graduates are invited to walk in the spring commencement ceremonies, because CU does not hold a summer commencement ceremony.


Section 4. Graduate Program Administration: The Graduate Program Assistant, Graduate Associate Chair, and Faculty Mentors

The following faculty and staff members will assist you throughout your doctoral studies at CU:

1. Graduate Program Assistant: The Graduate Program Assistant will assist you from the application process through to graduation.  He or she can help you with registering for courses (including late add/drops), transfer credit forms, and graduation forms. The Graduate Program Assistant will also work with you to schedule your PhD comprehensive exams and dissertation defense.

2. Graduate Associate Chair: The Graduate Associate Chair will contact you before the beginning of your first semester to discuss your academic interests, previous experience, secondary area of specialization, and fall semester schedule, and to go over program requirements, deadlines, and scholarship opportunities. In the first semester, the Graduate Associate Chair will consult with you to decide who would be the best faculty mentor. If your research interests are already firmly established, you can already choose a dissertation director.  The Graduate Associate Chair also monitors your progress in the program and keeps you informed about departmental and university deadlines. You will meet with the Associate Chair each semester to discuss academic requirements and coursework.

3. Faculty Mentor: Your faculty mentor will be a member of the German graduate faculty, and you will meet with him or her at the beginning of your first semester to review course choices, designate your secondary area of specialization, and discuss comprehensive exams and dissertation writing.   You will work with your faculty mentor until you have a director for your comprehensive examinations and dissertation (or comprehensive exams and thesis, if you are entering with a BA). Because you will be assigned a faculty mentor whose research profile best matches your own academic interests, there is a strong possibility that your faculty mentor will later become your exam and dissertation director.  

Section 5. Index

Committee, Dissertation

Comprehensive Exam, MA

Comprehensive Exam, PhD

Coursework, Policies

Coursework, Recommended

Coursework, Required


Dissertation Hours

Faculty Mentor

Good Standing in the Department

Graduate Associate Chair

Graduate Program Assistant

Graduation Deadlines

Incomplete Grade Policy

Independent Study


Language Requirement

MA Handbook

Scholarships, Fellowships, and Travel Grants

Secondary Concentration

Study Abroad/Exchange

Thesis Defense (MA)

Timeline, entering with BA

Timeline, entering with MA

Transfer Credit